Chantry House by Charlotte M. Yonge
Chapter XXII--Bristol Diamonds
'Stafford. And you that are the King's friends, follow me. Cade. And you that love the Commons, follow me; We will not leave one lord, one gentleman, Spare none but such as go in clouted shoon.' Act I. Henry VI.
The next day was Sunday, and no Griff appeared in the morning. Vexation, perhaps, prevented us from attending as much as we otherwise might have done to Mr. Henderson when he told us that there were rumours of a serious disturbance at Bristol; until Emily recollected that Griff had been talking for some days past of riding over to see his friend in the cavalry regiment there stationed, and we all agreed that it was most likely that he was there; and our wrath began to soften in the belief that he might have been detained to give his aid in the cause of order, though his single arm could not be expected to effect as much as at Hillside.
Long after dark we heard a horse's feet, and in another minute Griff, singed, splashed, and battered, had hurried into the room-- 'It has begun!' he said. 'The revolution! I have brought her--Lady Peacock. She was at Clifton, dreadfully alarmed. She is almost at the door now, in her carriage. I'll just take the pony, and ride over to tell Eastwood in case he will call out the Yeomanry.'
The wheels were to be heard, and everybody hastened out to receive Lady Peacock, who was there with her maid, full of gratitude. I heard her broken sentences as she came across the hall, about dreadful scenes--frightful mob--she knew not what would have become of her but for Griffith--the place was in flames when they left it-- the military would not act--Griffith had assured her that Mr. and Mrs. Winslow would be so kind--as long as any place was a refuge
We really did believe we were at the outbreak of a revolution or civil war, and, all little frets forgotten, listened appalled to the tidings; how the appearance of Sir Charles Wetherall, the Recorder of Bristol, a strong opponent to the Reform Bill, seemed to have inspired the mob with fury. Griff and his friend the dragoon, while walking in Broad Street, were astonished by a violent rush of riotous men and boys, hooting and throwing stones as the Recorder's carriage tried to make its way to the Guildhall. In the midst a piteous voice exclaimed -
'Oh, Griffith! Mr. Griffith Winslow! Is it you?' and Lady Peacock was seen retreating upon the stone steps of a house either empty, or where the inhabitants were too much alarmed to open the doors. She was terribly frightened, and the two gentlemen stood in front of her till the tumultuary procession had passed by. She was staying in lodgings at Clifton, and had driven in to Bristol to shop, when she thus found herself entangled in the mob. They then escorted her to the place where she was to meet her carriage, and found it for her with some difficulty. Then, while the officer returned to his quarters, Griff accompanied her far enough on the way to Clifton to see that everything was quiet before her, and then returned to seek out his friend. The court at the Guildhall had had to be adjourned, but the rioters were hunting Sir Charles to the Mansion-House. Griff was met by one of the Town Council, a tradesman with whom we dealt, who, having perhaps heard of his prowess at Hillside, entreated him to remain, offering him a bed, and saying that all friends of order were needed in such a crisis as this. Griff wrote a note to let us know what had become of him, but everything was disorganised, and we did not get it till two days afterwards.
In the evening the mob became more violent, and in the midst of dinner a summons came for Griff's host to attend the Mayor in endeavouring to disperse it. Getting into the Mansion-House by private back ways, they were able to join the Mayor when he came out, amid a shower of brickbats, sticks, and stones, and read the Riot Act three times over, after warning them of the consequences of persisting in their defiance.
'But they were far past caring for that,' said Griff. 'An iron rail from the square was thrown in the midst of it, and if I had not caught it there would have been an end of his Worship.'
The constables, with such help as Griff and a few others could give them, defended the front of the Mansion-House, while the Recorder, for whom they savagely roared, made his escape by the roof to another house. A barricade was made with beds, tables, and chairs, behind which the defenders sheltered themselves, while volleys of stones smashed in the windows, and straw was thrown after them. But at last the tramp of horses' feet was heard, and the Dragoons came up.
'We thought all over then,' said Griff; 'but Colonel Brereton would not have a blow struck, far less a shot fired! He would have it that it was a good-humoured mob! I heard him! When one of his own men was brought up badly hurt with a brickbat, I heard Ludlow, the Town-Clerk, ask him what he thought of their good humour, and he had nothing to say but that it was an accident! And the rogues knew it! He took care they should; he walked about among them and shook hands with them!'
Griff waited at the Mansion-House all night, and helped to board up the smashed windows; but at daylight Colonel Brereton came and insisted on withdrawing the piquet on guard--not, however, sending a relief for them, on the plea that they only collected a crowd. The instant they were withdrawn, down came the mob in fresh force, so desperate that all the defences were torn down, and they swarmed in so that there was nothing for it but to escape over the roofs.
Griffith was sent to rouse the inhabitants of College Green and St. Augustine's Back to come in the King's name to assist the Magistrates, and he had many good stories of the various responses he met with. But the rioters, inflamed by the wine they had found in sacking the Mansion-House, and encouraged by the passiveness of the troops, had become entirely masters of the situation. And Colonel Brereton seems to have imagined that the presence of the soldiers acted as an irritation; for in this crisis he actually sent them out of the city to Keynsham, then came and informed the mob, who cheered him, as well they might.
In the night the Recorder had left the city, and notices were posted to that effect; also that the Riot Act had been read, and any further disturbance would be capital felony. This escape of their victim only had the effect of directing the rage of the populace against Bishop Grey, who had likewise opposed the Reform Bill.
Messages had been sent to advise the Bishop, who was to preach that day at the Cathedral, to stay away and sanction the omission of the service; but his answer to one of his clergy was--'These are times in which it is necessary not to shrink from danger! Our duty is to be at our post.' And he also said, 'Where can I die better than in my own Cathedral?'
Since the bells were ringing, and it was understood that the Bishop was actually going to dare the peril, Griff and others of the defenders decided that it was better to attend the service and fill up the nave so as to hinder outrage. He said it was a most strange and wonderful service. Chants and Psalms and Lessons and prayers going on their course as usual, but every now and then in the pauses of the organ, a howl or yell of the voice of the multitude would break on the ear through the thick walls. Griff listened and hoped for a volley of musketry. He was not tender-hearted! But none came, and by the time the service was over, the mob had been greatly reinforced and had broken into the prisons, set them on fire, and released the prisoners. They were mustering on College Green for an attack on the palace. Griff aided in guarding the entrance to the cloisters till the Bishop and his family had had time to drive away to Almondsbury, four miles off, and then the rush became so strong that they had to give way. There was another great struggle at the door of the palace, but it was forced open with a crowbar, while shouts rang out 'No King and no Bishops!' A fire was made in the dining-room with chairs and tables, and live coals were put into the beds, while the plunder went on.
Griff meantime had made his way to the party headed by the magistrates, and accompanied by the dragoons, and the mob began to flee; but Colonel Brereton had given strict orders that the soldiers should not fire, and the plunderers rallied, made a fire in the Chapter House, and burnt the whole of the library, shouting with the maddest triumph.
They next attacked the Cathedral, intending to burn that likewise, but two brave gentlemen, Mr. Ralph and Mr. Linne, succeeded in saving this last outrage, at the head of the better affected.
Griff had fought hard. He was all over bruises which he really had never felt at the time, scarcely even now, though one side of his face was turning purple, and his clothes were singed. In a sort of council held at the repulse of the attack on the Cathedral, it had been decided that the best thing he could do would be to give notice to Sir George Eastwood, in order that the Yeomanry might be called out, since the troops were so strangely prevented from acting. As he rode through Clifton, he had halted at Lady Peacock's, and found her in extreme alarm. Indeed, no one could guess what the temper of the mob might be the next day, or whether they might not fall upon private houses. The Mansion-House, the prisons, the palace were all burning and were an astounding sight, which terrified her exceedingly, and she was sending out right and left to endeavour to get horses to take her away. In common humanity, and for old acquaintance sake, it was impossible not to help her, and Griff had delayed, to offer any amount of reward in her name for posthorses, which he had at last secured. Her own man-servant, whom she had sent in quest of some, had never returned, and she had to set off without him, Griff acting as outrider; but after the first there was no more difficulty about horses, and she had been able to change them at the next stage.
We all thought the days of civil war were really begun, as the heads of this account were hastily gathered; but there was not much said, only Mr. Frank Fordyce laid his hand on Griff's shoulder and said, 'Well done, my boy; but you have had enough for to-day. If you'll lend me a horse, Winslow, I'll ride over to Eastwood. That's work for the clergy in these times, eh? Griffith should rest. He may be wanted to-morrow. Only is there any one to take a note home for me, to say where I'm gone;' and then he added with that sweet smile of his, 'Some one will be more the true knight than ever, eh, you Griffith you--'
Griffith coloured a little, and Lady Peacock's eyes looked interrogative. When the horse was announced, Griff followed Mr. Fordyce into the hall, and came back announcing that, unless summoned elsewhere, he should go to breakfast at Hillside, and so hear what was decided on. He longed to be back at the scene of action, but was so tired out that he could not dispense with another night's rest; though he took all precautions for being called up, in case of need.
However, nothing came, and he rode to the Rectory in Yeomanry equipment. Nor could any one doubt that in the ecstasy of meeting such a hero, all the little misunderstanding and grief of the night before was forgotten? Ellen looked as if she trod on air, when she came down with her father to report that Griffith had gone, according to the orders sent, to join the rest of the Yeomanry, who were to advance upon Bristol. They had seen, and tried to turn back, some of the villagers who were starting with bludgeons to share in the spoil, and who looked sullen, as if they were determined not to miss their share.
I do not think we were very much alarmed for Griff's safety or for our own, not even the ladies. My mother had the lion-heart of her naval ancestors, and Ellen was in a state of exaltation. Would that I could put her before other eyes, as she stood with hands clasped and glowing cheek.
'Oh!--think!--think of having one among us who is as real and true knight as ever watched his armour -
'"For king, for church, for lady fight!" It has all come gloriously true!'
'Should not you like to bind on his spurs?' I asked somewhat mischievously; but she was serious as she said, 'I am sure he has won them.' All the rest of the Fordyces came down afterwards, too anxious to stay at home. Our elders felt the matter more gravely, thinking of what civil war might mean to us all, and what an awful thing it was for Englishmen to be enrolled against each other. Nottingham Castle had just been burnt, and things looked only too like revolution, especially considering the inaction of the dragoons. After Griff had left Bristol, there had been some terrible scenes at the Custom House, where the ringleaders--unhappy men!--were caught in a trap of their own and perished miserably.
However, by the morning, the order sent from Lord Hill, the arrival of Major Beckwith from Gloucester, and the proceedings of the good- humoured mob had put an end to poor Brereton's hesitations; a determined front had been shown; the mob had been fairly broken up; troops from all quarters poured into the city, and by dinner-time Griff came back with the news that all was quiet and there was nothing more to fear. Ellen and Emily both flew out to meet him at the first sound of the horse's feet, and they all came into the drawing-room together--each young lady having hold of one of his hands--and Ellen's face in such a glow, that I rather suspect that he had snatched a reward which certainly would not have been granted save in such a moment of uplifted feeling, and when she was thankful to her hero for forgetting how angry he had been with her two days before.
Minor matters were forgotten in the details of his tidings, as he stood before the fire, shining in his silver lace, and relating the tragedy and the comedy of the scene.
It was curious, as the evening passed on, to see how Ellen and Lady Peacock regarded each other, now that the tension of suspense was over. To Ellen, the guest was primarily a distressed and widowed dame, delivered by Griff, to whom she, as his lady love, was bound to be gracious and kind; nor had they seen much of one another, the elder ladies sitting in the drawing-room, and we in our own regions; but we were all together at dinner and afterwards, and Lady Peacock, who had been in a very limp, nervous, and terrified state all day, began to be the Selina Clarkson we remembered, and 'more too.' She was still in mourning, but she came down to dinner in gray satin sheen, and with her hair in a most astonishing erection of bows and bands, on the very crown of her head, raising her height at least four inches. Emily assures me that it was the mode in use, and that she and Ellen wore their hair in the same style, appealing to portraits to prove it. I can only say that they never astonished my weak mind in the like manner; and that their heads, however dressed, only appeared to me a portion of the general woman, and part of the universal fitness of things. Ellen was likewise amazed, most likely not at the hair, but at the transformation of the disconsolate, frightened widow, into the handsome, fashionable, stylish lady, talking over London acquaintance and London news with my father and Griff whenever they left the endless subject of the Bristol adventures.
The widow had gained a good deal in beauty since her early girlhood, having regular features, eyes of an uncommon deep blue, very black brows, eye-lashes, and hair, and a form of the kind that is better after early youth is over. 'A fine figure of a woman,' Parson Frank pronounced her, and his wife, with the fine edge of her lips replied, 'exactly what she is!'
She looked upon us younger ones as mere children still--indeed she never looked at me at all if she could help it--but she mortally offended Emily by penning her up in a corner, and asking if Griff were engaged to that sentimental little girl.
Emily coloured like a turkey cock between wrath and embarrassment, and hotly protested against the word sentimental.
'Ah yes, I see!' she said in a patronising tone, 'she is your bosom friend, eh? That's the way those things always begin. You need not answer: I see it all. And no doubt it is a capital thing for him; properties joining and all. And she will get a little air and style when he takes her to London.' It was a tremendous offence even to hint that Ellen's style was capable of improvement; perhaps an unprejudiced eye would have said that the difference was between high-bred simplicity and the air of fashion and society.
In our eyes Lady Peacock was the companion of the elders, and as such was appreciated by the gentlemen; but neither of the two mothers was equally delighted with her, nor was mine at all sorry when, on Tuesday, the boxes were packed, posthorses sent for, and my Lady departed, with great expressions of thankfulness to us all.
'A tulip to a jessamine,' muttered Griff as she drove off, and he looked up at his Ellen's sweet refined face.
The unfortunate Colonel Brereton put an end to himself when the court-martial was half over. How Clarence was shocked and how ardent was his pity! But Griffith received the thanks of the Corporation of Bristol for his gallant conduct, when the special assize was held in January. Mrs. Fordyce was almost as proud of him as we were, and there was much less attempt at restraining the terms on which he stood with Ellen--though still the formal engagement was not permitted.